U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack received a standing ovation Saturday at Pheasant Fest in Des Moines, Iowa, when he announced a new Conservation Reserve Program general signup will occur in late spring or early summer. "I can guarantee you we will have a general signup for the first time since 2006," he declared. "No program is as important as CRP (in controlling wind and water soil erosion)."
Secretary Vilsack also noted "the CRP is the largest carbon sequestration program in the country."
Vilsack said the new signup will be designed to do a better job of targeting acres -- focusing on lower productive lands. He said a targeted CRP will give "more bang for the buck for taxpayers." The Secretary admitted rental payments "will be a challenge. But crop prices are moderating, which will make it easier to be competitive."
The new signup arrives in time to address the 4.4 million acres of CRP expiring in September this year. An additional 14.2 million acres are slated to expire between 2011 and 2013.
Vilsack also announced 300,000 acres will be added to the continuous CRP program. "Fifty thousand acres will be allocated to The "Duck Nesting Habitat Initiative", 100,000 acres for the "Upland Bird Habitat Buffers" initiative targeting quail and 150,000 acres for the "Safe Acres For Wildlife Enhancement" program," explained Vilsack. These are new acreage caps.
Memorandum of Understanding
The Secretary also signed a first-ever MOU between the USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency and Pheasants Forever. The MOU establishes the framework for the three groups to work together in partnership toward common goals -- the implementation of farm bill conservation programs.
The MOU facilitates the free flow of information among the groups and provides a foundation for Pheasants Forever to deliver conservation technical assistance to farmers and landowners. Pheasants Forever, along with other state wildlife partners, currently employ 50 farm bill and partner biologists in eight states.